Google Saved My Ass!

Well, that title's probably a bit of an exaggeration but it got your attention, no? 

I have an add-on in my Firefox called “Tab Mix Plus” which is great – it allows you almost total control of how your tabs operate with the bonus feature of keeping track of the sites you have in open tabs when your browser closes or crashes.  (I know Firefox has something like this built-in now but I still prefer the Tab Mix Plus version.)

Because of this feature, I've gotten in the habit of keeping anywhere from 10-20 tabs open at any one time rather than using bookmarks or delicious or some other option to keep track of them. 

Unfortunately, I recently had a Firefox crash which didn't allow a session restore for some reason.  I went into the hard drive looking for a back-up file but couldn't find anything.  I tried the online backup program I subscribe to (which has saved my bacon in the past when I've needed to restore files) but it didn't have the proper file either.

I was just starting to accept that I'd lost all my tabs – again, nothing major but things like stories I come across that I mean to read at a later date, potential sites to use as blog fodder, etc.  I was trying to be zen about losing all of these links but the feeling lingered that I'd lost something really good that I'd regret.

Then, for some reason, I thought of one other avenue I could try.  When I set-up my Gmail account, without even thinking, I gave Google permission to keep a record of my searches. I logged in and, for the first time ever, realised that I'd also agreed to allow Google to keep a record of which sites I visit and when (plus helpfully keeping track of which sites I've visited the most.)

We can have the debate about privacy in the digital age another time (I have a feeling I'd lose!) but the reality is that, by giving Google access to this information, I was able to page through my last month's worth of surfing and pick out the sites I'd had open in my browser when it crashed because they were the ones that showed up as having been visited multiple times (due to the fact that they get reloaded every time I open and close Firefox which I occasionally do on purpose as well! )

So, long story short (too late), I was able to rediscover pretty much every site that I'd had bookmarked when the crash happened.  And I realised that most of them were things I'd probably not miss if I hadn't gotten them back.  But yeah, it was nice to have my little brain feel settled anyhow. 

For the tin-foil hat types, Google also has another feature where they not only track your searches AND sites visited but they can helpfully compile them to show your most frequent searches, sites visited and links clicked on in the past week, month, year and all-time.  Yikes!

(Okay, I'll start the debate by saying that I don't mind putting out my personal information because I'm not worried about more serious consequences than having ads targeted to me – something that I actually prefer to be honest.  Am I way off-base here?  Are the Google overlords plotting my demise?  Could the government knock on my door for my frequent clicks to “The Poo Bomb“???)

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